TVA says high lake levels are seasonal and temporaryBy: David Walter
Abnormal amounts of rain have recently caused record breaking flooding in Watauga Lake. The unusually heavy rainfall since January has presented extraordinary conditions. The excessive rain has led to the lake reaching its highest levels ever. The previous record for Watauga Lake was in 1987 at 1963.3 feet. Last Tuesday was just three feet over the previous record. As of Sunday, the water level was 1,965.58.
The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) has been carefully tracking the levels and releasing the water necessary to achieve equilibrium. One of the primary concerns of the TVA is the local areas below the dams. “We can only release so much because we risk flooding down-stream of the dam in Hampton and Elizabethton,” said Travis Brickley, a TVA spokesperson. According to their website, the TVA typically waits until the water in the lower tributaries recedes and then releases the water in anticipation of future flooding of the reservoirs. This has been further complicated by the amount of rain received in the last few months. “We have to do that in a very precise manner. We’re currently discharging 1.4 million gallons per minute,” said Brickley.
The TVA is careful to not only take into consideration the homes near the affected tributaries, but also the campgrounds, farms, and other locations which could easily be flooded. Because of their due diligence, there have been no major occurrences of major flooding or damage outside banks of tributaries. According to the TVA, there is no additional concern for the actual dams. The structural integrity of the two dams on Watauga Lake has been recently verified. Water levels are nearly 40 feet from the top of the dam and eight feet from the discharge pipes.
While the conditions are not typical, authorities have given no cause for alarm. “It’s just one of those things that happen,” said Brickley. “It’s the time of year when we already have our highest levels for the recreation season.”
Local recreation and tourism businesses are encouraging those interested in recreation on the lake to continue with their plans. Short of the heavy yet brief rainfalls recently, the weather is unseasonably nice and perfect for the upcoming summer season. The owners at Pioneer Landing in Johnson County are optimistic about the situation. Dan Livorsi, one of the owners at the marina, expressed no concern over the recent flooding. For them, it’s business as usual and visitors have not let conditions stop them from enjoying Watauga Lake. “The lake is the natural draw. The marinas are maxed out,” said Livorsi. “It’s not a bad flood and it’s not stopping us.”
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